Burning Man 2013 / by Sari Blum

Ah Burning Man. I always have such a hard time deciding which pictures to post on which various sites. I want to post all the pictures, I want everyone to be able to find themselves and relive those magical moments that somehow happened deep in the desert.  When I finally decide on the pictures to post I want to write the most eloquent essay about Burning man, how beautiful it is, how happy the people are there and relay in excruciating detail how the color gradients from the sky getting lighter when the sun finally rises above the mountains in the distance are unlike anywhere I’ve ever seen… But then I start posting the pictures and my words get lost in my images and I want those images to speak for themselves and my thoughts get flooded with all the memories of that burn and they tumble down and around until no words come out at all.

Before I start posting the pictures I want to write a little bit about what Burning Man seems to mean to me. Everyone who has never been always asks me what it’s like. There are lots of great articles and blogs floating around on the internet now about the burn, newbies going, millionaires going, everyone trying to convey this sense of what it’s like there, what it means to be in the middle of nowhere with all these people doing all kinds of things. It’s something that is so hard to explain. In years past I’ve hardly posted any text about the burn, so this year, as something one should do every day, I’m trying something new.

Like most people who have been to burning man, I too will tell you, that Burning Man changed my life. My first burn I ended up at the temple at sunrise one morning. I hadn’t been there yet and I had no idea what kind of place it was. The temple in its simplest terms is a temple. A place of reverence, a place for remembering, a place one can find quiet and solitude. It is everything the man is not. Once inside the temple walls you feel a shift. It’s quieter, people around you are keeping to themselves or furiously writing in notebooks or on walls. The energy shifts from being rambunctious and explosive to an extremely intense and profound silence. You can hear the wind once more. You can read the words that people have ripped from their hearts and souls and scrawled on walls about loved ones, lost ones, their attempts to move on, to forget and forgive. I wandered up the main stairs of the three story structure. My eyes were continuously scanning the words on the walls feeling my heart move and break with all of them. I was so overwhelmed with all these words begging to be read, I went to sit down and just be still for a moment. A man next to me started softly sobbing. I turned to ask him if he was ok. He began to tell me his story of how he was a war veteran. How after coming back from Iraq he had hated his existence. A friend had somehow convinced him to go to the burn. His first few days he was in a perpetual state of anger, aggression and frustration.  He could not understand why everyone was so happy when there were all these terrible things going on in the world, terrible things that he had been witness to. He couldn’t understand why he physically could not accept a hug from someone else or see their kindness and curiosity as genuine. However as the week wore on, he told me that slowly he started exploring the city. That he began to open up to the people around him.  I could hear in his voice a sound of awe, the idea that such a place could unlock his heart from such a cold detached state that it had been forced into to maintain his sanity. It was then he told me that burning man had changed his life because he could see the good in humanity again…

Talk about heavy.

By the end he was crying, I was crying, it was such an intense emotional exchange to have with a complete random stranger. The funny thing is, I can almost assure you that 95% of people who have been to burning man have a story like this. Where somehow out there in the desert, at an art structure, at a dance party, in line for the port-a-potties they have had a monumental life changing conversation with a complete stranger. It happens all the time. There are so many people compacted into that city that are bubbling with ideas, dreams, and struggles wanting to relate with someone, to share it with someone.

By nature we as humans express ourselves. Whether it’s in our job, our clothing, the music we listen to, the words that come out of our mouth – we are all trying to share and relate. Somehow. To someone, often anyone. It’s an incredible thing to think that with so many people on this earth we have the capability to feel so alone. One thing I have come to love about Burning Man is that it creates such a unique space for people to connect. For people to be themselves, or not themselves at all. To explore their limits and boundaries, to push their fears and their excitement, to share something with another human on a most basic level. The level of interacting, of talking, of having this notion that for this one week out of the year this is the place where anything can happen. You simply get to say yes or no. Do you want to hop on an art car that looks like a pirate ship? Yes. Do you want to go see what that crazy robot music is? No. Do want to take place in an egg toss competition? Yes? (seriously you just throw the egg like you used to do on field day).

I knew that something had changed in me after my first year at Burning Man. But it has taken me until my 5th year to truly understand Why. Why do I spend so much time and energy to go to this event? Why in the last five years has this been the one thing I have done constantly? I’ve moved around, I’ve traveled, I’ve worked different jobs. Every year I have made it to Burning Man. What I have realized is this… Burning man opened my eyes to what humanity can be.

Unlike the man I met my first year, my faith in humanity has never been broken, but seeing what people accomplish to BE at burning man – it blows my mind. That people want to spend their precious time and resources to build something beautiful, to create a space where people feel welcome, to bring together great minds for topics of conversations for research projects and for pure enjoyment. Burning man is a testament to celebrating life. To allow the human spirit to be anything, to create anything. It is moving. The sheer spectacle of it all will move you. Especially when you know it is only for one week. 7 days. Then everything will be burned. The city will be dismantled and the desert will once again take over. We are reminded that everything is fleeting. Nothing lasts forever and that we must learn to enjoy things that are good before they are gone. That we must remember to let go of anger and hurt because if we hold on to those emotions they wear at us. Burning man taught me to let go. Let go and allow things to happen. Let go and experience all that is here to experience for it is fleeting. There are so many things to experience at the burn, you’ll never get to see everything…

But you can ride your bike through a dust storm and feel lost. You can talk philosophy with your neighbor while his whole camp cooks bacon for any passer by. You can dance with hundreds of people under a starry sky with everyone moving and pounding their feet on the desert floor causing the dust to rise. You can watch the sky turn from dark blue to a hazy pink laced with violet and tinged with orange as the sun raises a sleepy ray over the distant purple mountain ranges, and the moon on the other side of the valley hangs low in the sky bidding her last good byes. You can ride a fire breathing dragon (art car). You can be taught yoga or meditation. You can watch fire spinners play with fire, or ask them to teach you how.  It is a world of possibilities. One where each individual brings something to the playa. And when it’s over… everyone leaves something there too. A piece of their heart is left when they fell in love with someone they knew for five minutes. A piece of their grief is left at the temple, watching it burn and turn into sparks climbing high into the sky. A piece of their is sanity left with the understanding that things don’t always have to be just so. From those ashes I always feel an ability to grow. That room has been made somewhere within my mind to accept something different.  For that one week I can let everything go, I can let everything beand I can let all these thoughts and emotions inside of me bubble over the surface, take on tangible notions and explore them more.  Tom Robbins (one of my favorite authors) really sums everything I’m trying to say:

” Our lives are not as limited as we think they are; the world is a wonderfully weird place; consensual reality is significantly flawed; no institution can be trusted, but love does work; all things are possible; and we all could be happy and fulfilled if we only had the guts to be truly free and the wisdom to shrink our egos and quit taking ourselves so damn seriously.”

Burning man is filled with so much love. The love to create and express and to be.

Thank you for letting me share. And now without further hesitation or rambling fragments of sentences… And as any good burning man story should start…


… this one time, at Burning Man…